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School board seat vacated

The District 4 board of education seat held by Walter James ‘Jim’ Brooks was vacated by Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson Friday, Aug. 28 due to a lawsuit filed by Robert E. Adams Jr. The lawsuit contends Brooks should not have been elected because Pike’s new school district map was not approved by the state – or used in the election – after the county received results from the 2010 census showing a significant demographic change. Superintendent Dr. Michael Duncan said since Brooks was deemed ineligible to serve because he does not reside in the new district boundaries, the board will follow vacancy guidelines outlined in local legislation. ’The legislation allows for sitting members to appoint an interim board member until the next general election, which will now be in July for non-partisan elections,’ said Dr. Duncan. ‘The board will conduct interviews and choose an interim candidate. Interested people must live in District 4.’ The board will advertise the position. Those interested in serving may send or deliver a letter of interest addressed to Ryan Edge, chairman, 16 W. Jackson St., Zebulon, by 12 noon Sept. 20. A map of District 4 is under the main story tab at pike.k12.ga.us. A similar lawsuit was filed Oct. 4 against the board of education, elections superintendent Lynn Brandenburg and Brooks. Arguments were heard by Judge William Ison Dec. 17 and he dismissed the case. It was appealed all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court. The appeal was withdrawn from the Supreme Court since the lawsuit was again filed against Brooks and was being heard in the Superior Court of Pike County. In Judge Hankinson’s Aug. 28 decision, he states the school district map was last reapportioned in 2002 following the 2000 census and the map used for the 2012 election was still based on the 2000 census. Before Pike could reapportion the school districts, the plan was required to be submitted to the Department of Justice for pre-clearance. ’Reapportionment plans are not effective as law, despite having been duly enacted by the state, until the plans are submitted for and receive clearance,’ states the judgement. ‘Here, the law became effective immediately upon receiving DOJ clearance on June 15, 2012. [The] respondent’s qualification which occurred prior to the reapportionment map receiving clearance became void immediately upon receiving clearance because the 2002 law under which he qualified was effectively repealed.’ The judgement states the law establishing the Pike County school board as an elected body was approved April 18, 1967. ’No person shall be eligible to represent a district unless he has been a resident of the district from which he offers as a candidate for at least one year immediately preceding the date of the election,’ it states. ‘In the event a member moves his residence from the district he represents, his place on the board shall immediately become vacant.’ Brooks hired an attorney to answer the lawsuit and was not compensated by the board of education. His attorney, L. Scott Mayfield of Smith, Welch, Webb and White argued in his response to plaintiff’s motion for summary judgement that the pre-clearance of the proposed school district maps was approved after qualification had ended and ballots had been mailed out. ’The 2012 map did not become legal and if effect until the date of pre-clearance, June 15, 2012, which was after qualification and after the ballots were printed and mailed to certain voters,’ it reads. ‘The election superintendent did not withhold or strike the defendant’s name from the ballot and this court should not substitute its judgment for that of the election superintendent.’ Brooks was elected in the Aug. 21, 2012 runoff election with 56% of the votes, beating his opponent Connie Green. Four candidates qualified for the seat. In the July 31, 2012 general primary, Brooks received nearly 38% of the votes with a total of 245, Green received just over 30% of the votes with 195, Marty Wynn received around 20% of the votes with 135 and Adams received around 10% of the votes with a total of 69.

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